A group of 18 Blue State attorneys general filed a lawsuit against U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos earlier this month to try and block new regulations that would provide much needed due process to college students accused of sexual assault.
The lawsuit is meant to delay the final rule’s implementation at least until after the November election, with filers hoping former Vice President Joe Biden will become president and cancel the rule all together.
As Inside Higher Ed reported earlier this month, the lawsuit claims the new rules would “reverse decades of effort to end the corrosive effects of sexual harassment on equal access to education,” ignoring the fact that denying due process makes it easier for false accusations to limit access to education and does nothing to stop actual sexual harassment.
The AGs also took issue with the fact that the new regulations limit who can make an accusation (the new rules state the accuser must be a student of the school), are unfair. The whole point of Title IX wading into sexual harassment and assault was to claim accusers had their educational opportunities limited by a college that ignored their sexual assault claims. If the accuser isn’t even a student, their educational opportunities can’t be limited by a school they don’t attend.
The AGs that filed the lawsuit were all from Democrat states: California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Last week, a coalition of Red State AGs filed a brief defending the new regulations.
The new rule, the AGs wrote, “requires educational institutions to investigate and, where proved, punish allegations of sufficiently severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive sexual harassment. It also provides a needed framework, consistent with long-standing Supreme Court precedent, that protects the foundational constitutional rights of due process and speech.”
The AGs take particular issue with the notion that because the adjudications can’t result in jail time (at least the schools can’t impose such a punishment, they can and do send information gathered to police in order to circumvent students’ constitutional due process rights), then due process isn’t necessary or can be severely limited.
“The need for procedural due process only increases in the context of sexual harassment and misconduct. Although not a criminal proceeding outright, the underlying act at issue in a harassment-related disciplinary hearing overlaps with illegal conduct. A finding of guilt attaches a special stigma to the accused party that will stay with them well after they exit campus,” the AGs wrote.
They also quoted a ruling against Brandeis University from an accused student. The judge in that case wrote, “If a college student is to be marked for life as a sexual predator, it is reasonable to require that he be provided a fair opportunity to defend himself and an impartial arbiter to make that decision.”
The AGs writing in support of the final rule are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.
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